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Three NorCal House Dems vote for Upton bill

Reps. Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi and Ami Bera were among 39 House Democrats who joined with most Republicans to pass a controversial bill Friday that would let insurers keep selling policies which fall short of the new healthcare law’s standards and consumer protections.

H.R. 3350 by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., would not only let people with insurance that doesn’t meet the new law’s standards keep it through 2014, but it would also let new customers buy such policies too. The House approved the bill 261-157, but the bill faces a tougher time in the Democrat-led Senate and President Obama has vowed to veto it.

Most Democrats say the Upton bill basically guts the new law, disrupting the risk pools that make individual insurance sold on the new health benefit exchanges affordable for most Americans.

A spokeswoman for McNerney, D-Stockton, didn’t reply to an e-mail and a phone call Friday.

Matthew Kravitz, a spokesman for Garamendi, D-Fairfield, said Obama and House members on both sides of the aisle “all agree that the fact that so many plans are being dropped is an issue of concern.”

“Congressman Garamendi has always said that every law, including the Affordable Care Act, can be improved,” Kravitz said. “Congressman Garamendi voted for the Democratic plan to fix this problem, and he also voted for the Republican plan. The Upton bill has flaws, but by bringing the issue to the Senate, Garamendi hopes the Senate will take up their own legislation and both chambers, in a bicameral bipartisan fashion, can hash out a compromise during a conference committee.”

Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, issued this statement:

“I voted for the Keep Your Plan Act today so that all Sacramento County families have the individual choice to keep their insurance if it is working for them.

“That being said, I encourage Californians to explore their options on California’s new health insurance marketplace, Covered California, where families are likely to find plans that offer better coverage, for less money. California’s website is working, and health plans in the marketplace offer more patient protections and assistance to help pay for insurance, which isn’t available under existing plans.

“The bipartisan passage of today’s bill, and the President’s new proposal to let Americans keep their current coverage through 2014, are important steps in the right direction. As a doctor and the former Chief Medical Officer of Sacramento County, I am committed to bringing down the cost of health care and will keep working to fix parts of the Affordable Care Act that aren’t working for the American people.”

All three Democrats hold what could be described as swing districts. The Cook Political Report, a renowned prognosticator of elections, rates McNerney’s 9th Congressional District and Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District as “likely Democrat,” meaning they’re not considered competitive at this point but have the potential to become engaged. But Cook rates Bera’s 7th Congressional District as a toss-up in which either party has a good chance of winning.

Elizabeth Emken, one of three Republicans seeking to unseat Bera next year, issued a statement saying Bera is trying to mask his support of an unpopular law.

“Regardless of his vote today, Ami Bera has continually defended Obamacare and all the problems it has caused while voting to keep it the law of the land,” she said. “Bera’s votes have put over 1 million Californians in danger of losing their health care. He can claim he was ‘concerned’ all he wants, but his voting record tells the painful truth – Ami Bera approved of Obamacare, and now he is trying to distance himself from its disastrous effects.”

Health insurers are discontinuing individual-market policies that don’t meet the standards set forth in the nation’s new law. Those receiving such notices are being offered new policies by their insurers, but also can go to the Covered California website to shop around for the best deal and to determine whether they’re eligible for subsidies.

Posted on Friday, November 15th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Under: George Miller, housing, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 13 Comments »